My first visit to Sun Peaks. From where I live, about an hour north of Seattle, it was a 5-hour drive to the resort. The drive was pretty easy, two moderate mountain passes on the way from Abbotsford to Kamloops with some nice views along the way.
Shamora and I arrived at Sun Peaks on Sunday night and checked into our room at the Cahilty Lodge just in time to do a meet and greet with Nancy Greene. Nancy, an Olympic Gold Medal skier and her husband Al Raine own the Cahilty Lodge. Nancy is the Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks. She and Al helped develop Whistler, then moved to Sun Peaks to develop the resort. It has a Whistler-like design, but on a small scale and much more family-friendly. She also does "Ski with Nancy Greene" sessions on weekends and holidays, which we did on Tuesday afternoon.
But I digress. Sun Peaks is a 45-minute drive from Kamloops. It's a purpose-built resort village and laid out so that most hotels and shops are very close to the main lifts, Sunburst and Sundance express lifts. From the Cahilty Lodge we were able to pick up our skis from the ski room, walk out onto a green run (Gentle Giant) and ski to the lifts.
Walk outside hotel. Click. Ski to lift. There's also a slope side restaurant right there.
At the end of the day we took the Village Platter to the Gentle Giant run and ski back to the hotel. The platter runs an hour after the rest of the lifts close. For the holidays they kept the platter going until 7pm so there were lots of people getting some night skiing runs.
From other hotels you could easily walk to the lifts, or even ski through the main pedestrian walkway through the village. Occasional horse-pulled carriages passed by.
The village is not large, nothing anywhere near the size of Whistler but has a good selection of restaurants and ski shops, as well as a small market. Many hotel rooms are pet-friendly and lots of people were walking dogs. In addition to the village there are condo and townhouse developments, from the Burfield chair a mile down the road, near the day lodge, and past the village up around the Morrisey express chairlift. Most of the condos have ski in access from the Sundance lift, and/or ski out to the Morrisey lift.
So here's the thing about Sun Peaks: we were there for Christmas and most rooms were filled, but there were almost no lift lines. Once you're on the mountain you might have the whole run to yourself. The busiest days have reportedly about 6,000 skiers, but there are 3600+ acres of terrain, and most of it was open on the this trip. Most of the traffic, if you can call it that, is concentrated on the Sunburst and Sundance lifts.
Sun Peaks' base elevation is 4116', and the top of Burfield is 6824' (the bottom of Burfield is a little lower than the village so the total lift-serviced vertical is 2,894'). It may seem like a low elevation resort, but at 50+ degrees latitude it rarely rains and the snow preservation is excellent. They do a lot of summer grooming and brush cutting, so don't need as much snow to cover the runs. Most everything was open, although there were a few black runs where I was avoiding brush. There are around 120 runs, plus a dozen or so gladed areas, though there wasn't enough snow to explore glades and tree skiing on this trip.
Sun Peaks has a lot blue cruisers and they groom a lot of runs. The runs are long. While the black runs are truly black runs, not inflated-ego blue runs, this isn't a gnar-type resort. It isn't a powderhound destination either, with only about 220-250" of snow a year. The snow is nice and light when it falls and the snow preserves nicely. In a year where a lot of resorts have minimal coverage, most of Sun Peaks was open and skiing great.
The first day we decided to join a group with a mountain host "Sun Guide" for the morning. It was overcast most of the day, with fog on the top of Mt Tod/Burfield, with snow throughout the day. We took the Sundance express lift and skied a run called Rambler to the Morrisey Connector to the Morrisey lift. The other way to get to Morrisey is to cross a bridge across the street from the Village and day lodge, take the Morrisey Platter and ski down to the Morrisey express chairlift. Morrisey serves mostly blue runs. Most runs were groomed and were in great shape. After about 4 long blue cruisers (MIdlife Crisis, CC Rider, Showboat down the lift line) we took Back in Time which takes you to the Burfield lift (you have to cross the road).
Burfield is a long, slow lift and takes 22 minutes to the top. While the rest of the Sun Peaks is a modern family-friendly resort, Burfield is old-school, no-frills, with a small locals lodge at the bottom and a warming hut at the top. Burfield has even fewer crowds than the rest of the resort and 2900' feet of vertical with some great terrain. There wasn't enough snow coverage on the lower part of Tod Mt. or I would have spent some more time there.
Shamora and I met up with Dano in the village and we took the Sunburst chair for lunch at the mid-mt lodge. I think we chose to do that because we couldn't decide on where to eat in the village, there were too many choices. It is actually pretty cool to be able to ski into the village and have a wide variety of restaurant or cafe options. Bistro, bakery, Mexican, Sushi, Steak, whatever. Not to mention the enormous sticky buns in the Sunburst Mid Mt lodge.
Anyone who has been to Snowbasin or Sun Valley will not be impressed by the mid-mountain lodge but it's a nice place to stop for quick bite. The Village Day Lodge at the base is fairly basic with Guest Services, rentals, a restaurant and a cafe, and another base lodge, Bento's, is much more like a small local ski area lodge, set up more for locals as a cafeteria. I think they have the Village for more dining and shopping rather than build an expansive day lodge.
After lunch, a short run to the the Crystal chair. From the top of Crystal there is the wide open Crystal Bowl and and couple of nice blue trails on one side, facing snow towards the Sunburst area is Headwall, and on the "back side" several tree lined black runs, which is great on days when there is fog and visibility is limited in the bowls. We took a nice black run called Spillway, which empties into 5 Mile. Basically everything empties into 5 Mile. Rather than ski to the bottom we took the Elevation chair which takes you back to the top of Sunburst. We split up, Shamora headed to Sundance; Dano guided me down Ridge to the bottom of Burfield. From the the top we did some skating and hiking to an out-of bounds area called Gils. Fairly easy to reach, no one there, about 500' vertical of black-diamond pitch, some untracked lines and nice snow. A little bit of skating and poling to get back in bounds. Dano mentioned they were planning a new chairlift in that area (he wasn't pleased).
After skiing back to the bottom Dano left and I skied a few more runs to finish the day.
The next day we had sun, all day. Freshly groomed runs after receiving a few inches of snow the day before. No crowds. Excellent day.
Bottom of Sunburst.
Cruiser, a long blue run on Sunburst.
Broadway, a black on the lower part of Sunburst.
Top of Crystal Chair
Snow Ghosts at top of Crystal.
Headwall, view from top of Sunburst/Elevation chairs. Top of Crystal chair visible at top center. Top of Burfield is a little past that.
David, Nancy Greene and Shamora, with Headwall behind us.
Nancy Green leading a group from top of of Headwall to Blue Line at the Crystal chair.
Warning! This is a 19 minute video with Nancy Greene guiding a group from the top of Crystal along 5 Mile, to The Other Way, to Homesteader. I include this video because it shows a lot of the terrain, about 2800' vertical. I liked Nancy's easy, relaxed skiing, with very economical movements. Also Nancy provides some tips as she works with a group of mixed ability skiers.
OSV next to the Elevation chair is where the Austrian Ski Team does early season SL and GS training and otherwise the run is often used for race training by the Nancy Greene Sun Peaks racing program.
Xmas day was more of the same, though without the sun. No crowds. Skied a bunch of runs at Morrisey in the morning and ended the last few runs of the day there. Skied Still Smokin' several times, even late in the day, with groomer tracks still intact. Morrisey seems to preserves the snow better and doesn't have as much skier traffic that Sunburst or Sundance gets. Morrisey is mostly long blue cruisers, however there are several black and double black runs (called the Laundry Room due to runs named Spin Cycle, Agitator and Static Cling) on the lower part off of Delta's Return. Static Cling was long and steep, and unfortunately covered with too much brush so I took it rather slow. Needs more snow, but great terrain.
The Sticks is a long long green run on Morrisey with lots of tree islands and about the most fun I've ever had on a green run. In the background Sunburst is on the the left and Sundance is in the middle.
Christmas trees were decorated at several places down the Morrisey and Sundance lift lines.
Cross the road, walk under the bridge and take the platter to get to Morrisey from the Village. Or take the Sundance chair and Rambler to the Morrisey Connector for a long green to get there.